Easter


The Resurrection is difficult to fathom. People just don’t die and come back to life—especially on the third day. There are books that convince us that people who are declared dead for a few minutes (up to 90 minutes if you read one book about Heaven and life after death and resuscitation-type miracles), but on the third day? To accept that takes real faith.

Once our faith has developed to the point of accepting Jesus’ Resurrection (which is real, by the way), then we have to deal with the purpose of the Easter story. You see, the Resurrection was not just a parlor trick to wow the masses. Jesus was not a first-century David Copperfield trying to do a trick that was just too good to be true. The purpose of the Resurrection is to provide the foundation for a future. The events of Easter weekend all have deepest significance.

Jesus died on a cross to provide the perfect sacrifice for the unforgivable. We could not pay dearly enough to restore a relationship with God that was broken by the sinfulness of mankind. Jesus, having lived a sinless life in our sin-filled world, made the only payment possible.

Jesus was buried, and His disciples fell into discouragement because the hope they had placed in Him seemed to be gone with Him. That silent second day—the Sabbath of the week—forced early disciples to reflect on what it was—who it was—that they had followed and believed. This kind of reflection makes or breaks our faith. For those early disciples, their faith triumphed.

On the first Resurrection Day, Jesus conquered death as a promise of a future for those who believe. It is this foundational promise on which the church builds and operates even into the twenty-first century. Hard to believe? Yes. Imperative to believe? Absolutely. Christ is risen—for you, for me, for all who did believe, for all who do believe, and for all who will ever believe. He is risen indeed!

“’Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”  — an Angel, Luke 24:5b-6a

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Thursday: preparations are made for the feast. And not just any feast, but the most solemn, sacred feast of the entire year. This is the commemoration of the awesome night that God sent the Death Angel throughout all of Egypt taking the lives of the first-born—old, young, highborn and low, even the livestock was not spared this night. But the Israelites? They were kept safe by the sign of the blood, and this is the feast the disciples celebrate tonight: Passover! Afterward, they adjourn to a quiet place for meditation, and then the mobs come.

Friday: After a night filled with mock justice and betrayal, sentence is carried out: Crucifixion. It is the most horrible, legalized capital punishment known in the history of man. And the Innocent of all innocents is hung to die. With His death, all men can be set free—just as the Passover set the Israelites of old free. All that must be done is to apply the Blood of the Lamb to the doors of one’s life—accept it willingly and apply it liberally. Even so, darkness covers the Earth. But wait for it . . .

Sunday: Hallelujah! He is risen! He is not here! Jesus Christ, having conquered sin, now conquers death. Now all we have is to tell this good news while we wait for His Return.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. —an angel (Matthew 28:6)

Today, I would like to focus, not on the crowd that turned on Jesus; the crowd that railed for crucifixion; the crowd, spurred on by jealous religious leaders, to frenzy for blood, but on the crowd who greeted Jesus.

Palm Sunday, the day recognized as the opening of Holy Week, is the one time when we see Jesus being treated as Jesus should be treated by the population at large. Yes, there are detractors, schemers among the number—even one skulking in the shadows of Jesus’ closest disciples—but the people at large honor him.

Today, let us join with the voices of those who call out in worship and praise of the Son of God. Let our voices mingle with those on that first Palm Sunday, lining the route of the Triumphal Entry. During this week, however, let us not lose sight of the One we shower with praise allowing our worship to turn into cursing. Instead, with the benefit of hindsight, let us continue, in the midst of doubt and second-guessing, to lift our voices in constant “Hosanna!” to the King of kings who comes in the name of the Lord.

Then the crowds who went ahead of Him and those who followed kept shouting: Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One! Hosanna in the highest heaven! (Matthew 21:9)

Years ago (during seminary days) I went with a group of single adults from the church where I served as youth minister on a weekend trip to view the Passion Play in Eureka Springs, AR. It was  a thrilling experience. The play began just at dusk chronicling the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

Actors and actresses, along with an entire menagerie of animal actors depicted the events beginning with the triumphal entry accompanied by “Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We were witness to the Last Supper, to the mock trial before the Sanhedrin, to the audience before Pilate, and to the awful sight of the Crucifixion itself.

I must confess that throughout the beginning of the play I was filled with thoughts of, “That’s not how it happened,” and, “That’s not the way the Bible records it.” And then it dawned on me–these are just actors, trying to present an impossible story in a way that gets the message across while being as accurate as they can without the advantage of spectacular cinematic tricks (it was a “live” performance after all). With this thought, I began to enjoy their interpretation, and it was rather nice.

As they moved through the story to the request of Joseph from Arimethea and the burial of Jesus’ body I began having doubts again–“They’re going to leave him in the tomb, I just know they are.” But, you know, they didn’t. Not only did they tell the story of the Resurrection (which is what today is all about) but at the very climax of the event, Jesus began to ascend. I had seen the wires before the sun went down and they extended to the tops of the trees. As the illusion continued, he ascended above where I knew the treetops to be, and I was awestruck.

Here is the thought that came to mind in the midst of this spectacular production: “He is alive!”

The thought that has inspired believers from the day that inspired this Passion Play in the Ozarks: “He is alive!”

The truth that accompanies the events of this Holy Week is that in his Crucifixion Christ conquered sin and in his Resurrection Messiah put Death to death. And since HE IS ALIVE we can know: Death is dead. Life has come!

How must it feel to be one of the original disciples? On Saturday, their holy day. All was lost yesterday. Their answer to all of history’s questions was gone. Today–Saturday, the Sabbath–is filled with sadness, despair, and shouting silence.

God is not speaking, He has spoken and left us with emptiness where there should be whole.

In retrospect we say, “Wait for it. Wait . . . for. . . it . . .”

Let’s start with a comic strip brought to my attention by Marty Duren:

 

From there, listen to these few words–because it is, after all, Good Friday:

Praise God It’s Friday (P.G.I.F.). In the most selfless act in human history, God Incarnate silently faced the most horrific deaths ever devised by man—all for you and me. What’s so good about Good Friday? He took my place.

And finally, expand what you think about Good Friday by following this link.

The night before Good Friday, a day that has been dubbed “Maundy Thursday” by the church, Jesus shared one final supper–one last Passover meal–with his closest followers. Among them was his betrayer. All of them turned their backs, one who had been boldest would be loudest in his denial.

The church continues today to commemorate the events that happened on this Black Thursday which set in motion the events that would seem to be the most horrible of days. Each time you partake the Lord’s Supper (the Eucharist, Holy Communion–your Church tradition will have it’s own name) please take a moment to remember that it harkens back to “the night He was betrayed”

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[e] you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (from 1 Corinthians 11, ESV)

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